Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Panic at Palanga

My heart stopped beating and the cold sweat that came over me felt as if I had just walked into a meat freezer after a work out. It was 530 in the morning and still dark outside the tiny Palanga airport. I had been there waiting for the place to open since 0500. I was tired, having been up at 4 AM to meet the taxi that had been arranged. I was happy to be early for my flight scheduled to leave at 0645. Better an hour early than 5 minutes late when it comes to flying anywhere these days. I had been in no hurry to check in, as the act would seal the end of my too short sojourn in Lithuania. But I had moved from the hard plastic chair when the two Scandinavian Airlines staff were free after dealing with the first few bleary-eyed passengers. It was then that, like stepping on a landmine and feeling the trigger engage, I realized what I had done.

The is only one item that is essential for travel these days; a passport. You could manage without your luggage or money if you needed to. But a passport is a showstopper. Mentally retracing my steps, I suddenly knew I had left it on the desk in my hotel room, intending to put it in my carry-on just before leaving. I could "see" it there in the empty room, silently saying, "How could you be so careless?".

I immediately began playing out the disastrous consequences. I miss this flight to Copenhagen and the next one is too late to make my connection to Heathrow and then home. That would put me too late to catch the cruise ship on which my firm was leaving for a business retreat, non-stop to San Francisco. My mouth went dry. "Stupid!", I heard as the judgment of all who would hear the story.

"Calm down", I said, "Think.". Make a plan and implement immediately. Step one; call my friends at the hotel and rudely awaken them from a much needed sleep. Step two; have them convince the hotel staff to check my room. Step three; find out how to get my passport safely transported to the airport. Step four; pray it arrives on time. All passengers are required to be through security by 0615. Even if everything goes perfectly it may not make it. It was now 0545. No margin for error.

Pacing, 0600. Pacing, 0605. Pacing, 0610. I was sure that those watching were nervous about what I might be up to as they watched my obviously stressed expression and behaviour, staring at my carry-on.

At 0613 a decal-marked cab with no passengers sped into sight and screeched to a stop outside the door marked, "Departures". I pulled open the taxi's front door, tore a large white envelope with my name on it from the driver's hand, stating my name at the same time. I sputtered out a "thank you" in both English and Lithuanian before I realized he probably wanted more than my appreciation, enthusiastic and sincere as that was. I gave the driver the small amount of Lithuanian Litas and told him confidently that the hotel would pay. He seemed to accept the glib assurance, thereby calming my fears of being arrested by the armed security guard for failing to pay the fare.

Dashing to the check-in counter I presented my precious passport to the agent. She must have thought me extremely anxious as my tremour had been set to high by the events of the last 45 minutes. It was too difficult to explain the affect of the situation on my Parkinson's disease. I bolted for the security area, trying to look casual as my carry-on was cleared as I watched the last of the other passengers mount the stairs to the small turboprop.

I immediatly fell asleep after boarding.


  1. Michael had a similar experience years ago before leaving on a business trip to Europe. Having forgotten his passport he was in danger of missing his flight. I had to race the 30+ km back home to find it and then race back. When I returned Michael was white with anxiety and shaking uncontrollably, almost unable to continue with the journey. I think he was about 5 years into the disease by then.

  2. Glad to read that you made it from there to here, only to go down there and soon over there...keep the passport close and safe travels.

  3. Claire;

    I have heard several stories like this since posting. Fuels my paranoia.


  4. Nancy;

    Thanks for following the bouncing ball. Glasgow is incredibly interesting. Blog to follow, perhaps tomorrow.


  5. My brother went to Romania once, and a small boy stopped to talk to him. My bro didn't realize he was a ploy, and behind my brother someone pick-pocketed his billfold and passport. He had been in the country less than 30 minutes and he was so upset. He called his wife and she was able to wire him money and somehow got him a passport to replace the old one. Didn't stop him from enjoying his trip though. He went on to help at an orphanage, fall in love with it; adopt it and in the end build them a new building and make sure they had the medicines they needed. He went back there once a year for several years. I've personally never traveled out of the country, so I have no such stories to share.